Weekly Prompt: Borrowed Signs

Drinking the Sky, Liquid Vision, and See - bits of signs from the Tech Museum
Bits of signs from the Tech Museum in San Jose

Here’s a found poem exercise that’s inspired by a trip that my boyfriend and I took to the Tech Museum in San Jose, CA while on vacation a couple of weeks ago.  As we made our way through the joyously kinetic (and occasionally frenetic) space of the museum’s galleries, I found myself intrigued by the surprisingly figurative language used on the signs in one of the exhibits: by the way in which it resisted the impulse to inform on a strictly literal level and instead chose to render the vision behind the very practical inventions that were being described in expansive and imagistically evocative ways.  “Drinking the Sky,” for example, was the title of a station about fog nets—fine mesh screens which trap moisture from morning fog to make clean drinking water.  What a lovely idea, I mused, thinking not just of the fog nets themselves (which are indeed a marvelously ingenious invention), but also of the image of harvesting the sky, of gathering its fabric to one’s mouth to drink.  Then there was “Liquid Vision,” which was the title of a display about soft, water-filled glasses lenses whose strength could be adjusted by reducing or increasing the amount of liquid inside.  I admired the invention itself, but enjoyed the synaesthetic nature of the title even more: I imagined vision that was truly liquid—as light so often seems to be—revealing the world to us fluidly, wetly, clearly, in currents and waves.  If such a thing were our everyday experience, we’d be literally washed in sight; one might come away to sleep dripping with colors and shadows and shapes.  Or indeed, perhaps that vision that could be liquidized or distilled–bottled, sold, distributed from place to place in a canister . . . like a film, but for oral consumption.  Potion-like.  Shimmery. Strange. At any rate, something that one could wrap a poem around.

Prompt: Write a poem whose central image is inspired by language “borrowed” from a sign, billboard, or poster.